The future is in limbo. The oil wells are running dry, and fossil fuel is bound to go down the history books. Things are going awry doesn’t it?

This is why Volvo believes in sustenance to ensure that both mother nature and us are at one, and this is why they’re here to deliver you an exciting at the wheel development that differs itself from the common bunch.


A penny buys you virtually nothing these days.

Yes, it could get you a piece of Hacks to soothe your cough after fuelling up your extremely inefficient V6-powered SUV. Not only that, the SUV is also bound to leave a big dent on your bank account during road tax renewal as the engine capacity doesn’t please the lads at our Road Transportation Department.

The good old days of driving your guzzler of an SUV to a swanky countryside club or golf course is practically over. Petrol prices are bound to shoot up, and the possibility of you not getting a pay raise is inevitable in this very interesting era. What are you going to do? Could this spell an end to your large SUV fantasies and opting for a econobox that will make you put on a massive sour face?

However, you can avoid that now and go on making the most out of your life by driving something really efficient again. Most importantly, it is still an SUV. Not some saloon where measly accountants and geriatrics will drive, which is by far very important for a straight-headed chap like you. This is where Volvo steps in to deliver you the all-new XC90 T8.

For a spare change of RM403,888, the XC90 T8 has been an instant success for Volvo Car Malaysia. It remains one of Volvo’s greatest success story in the international frontier, too. This is one talent that seemed too impossible to achieve while being presided by Ford, which is quickly recognised by its new Chinese owners, Geely.

Cuffs away, Volvo is keen to demonstrate to you why its Plug-in Hybrid system is the world’s best and safest ever. And by making sure their technology is seen throughout the globe, Volvo has slotted in their all-new SPA platform with EV tech into the flagship XC90 — which is topped-off by an extremely-suave bodyshell. Oh, lets not forget the exquisite-looking Thorhammer headlamps as well.

Nonetheless, its time to bring all things down to local perspective. At a recent press con with Lennart Stegland, Volvo Car Malaysia’s boss, he is keen that Volvo will succeed even better domestically now with its upcoming portfolio of electric-cum-petrol powered cars. And no, he is not just your typical boss where you fear to approach the most — he is, in fact, the man behind the Volvo C30 Electric pilot programme that is more than willing to have a tete-a-tete with you.

Fabled for his in-hand knowledge about the company’s flagship model, Lennart was once based in the marque’s Gothenburg research and development centre. If you’re familiar with the C30, then you will know its electric derivative which took the Scandinavian automotive world by storm. It was, in fact, an EV that is ahead of its time. To be honest, I have driven one back in Sweden and it is joyous.

The big thing is this — the C30 Electric felt like it was engineered, produced and delivered yesterday in my experience. But no, it remains one of Volvo’s earliest EV invention, in which it took place more than six years ago. It was way before a time where polar bears were dying at a rate of ten per day due to excess carbon output.

This is why Lennart is tasked to take on this extremely challenging market for EVs or Plug-in Hybrids. A market that is dominated by petrols, a penchant for hating diesels and questioning the viability of eco vehicles at the same time. In due course, he is also here to let us know why the XC90 remains the world’s most advanced PHEV ever made, and it is here to stay with us in our tropical sweatbox.

It all starts at the platform. The smart SPA modular chassis that is engineered to accommodate a battery pack, electric motor and a hybrid drivetrain at the same time without sacrificing interior space, or even compromising safety. Which is a common botheration for normal hybrids out there as it will eat into cabin or bootspace.

A first for Volvo, the underpinnings of this modular platform are meticulously engineered to accommodate both modern and traditional technology within. Though flexible, expandable and multi-adjustable in nature to accommodate various bodystyles and types of powertrain, the SPA platform is, indisputably, the strongest modular chassis ever to be developed in the automotive world.

Lennart’s pride and joy is powered by a 24 kWh battery pack — which is good for 111bhp if combined with the electric motor. In real world, the C30 Electric is capable of achieving a worthy 150km driving range. A figure that seems pretty sophisticated during its time. Unlike other EVs where they aren’t engineered for the harsh Scandinavian winter, Volvo has even slotted in a 14.5-litre bio-ethanol reservoir tank to keep all occupants warm and merry at the same time.

In construction, the platform uses a generous range of hot-formed boron steel — a primary material that the company has been using since the early days by ensuring all occupants are safe in an unfortunate event while on the go. Apart from that, the platform also enables Volvo to shorten the overhangs of the XC90, even while in favour for a longer wheelbase to boost interior space. In return, the exterior proportions are superlatively balanced.

The centrally-mounted battery also boosts safety credentials. Organisations such as NCAP and IIHS has even awarded the XC90 as the safest pick today, and it even tops the class by being the world’s first PHEV to be driven off the road, which is a common occurrence when the driver loses focus at the wheel.

Built in with a slew of safety cutoffs, the battery has been extensively tested to withstand fire and severe crash situations. A voltage interlock mechanism is also included in, and if the battery needs to be assessed, there is even a manual service disconnect function integrated in for further research purposes, and most importantly, to not give the engineer the biggest jolt of his life while checking it.

Lennart has even mentioned that the battery is capable of disabling itself during a crash. The system will automatically detect on the severity, and with all of this complexities, the XC90 T8 is still the most friendliest to nature in the carbon output scale. Liquid cooling function is also included in the package to make sure it will be able to withstand the desert-like heat in Death Valley, or even our torrential rainforest climate.

Typical of all battery packs, heat is a common issue as mentioned above. If it reaches a certain temperature that requires additional cooling, the XC90 could even activate its air-conditioning to the battery pack down. So don’t be frightened if your XC90 emits a loud fan noise while its parked after a long highway drive. It is designed to do so to dissipate excess heat and minimalise the chances of damaging the battery pack.

Inside the 9.2 kWh battery pack, there are 96 lithium-ion cells, which is designed and made by Enerdel and LG Chem — which is slotted into Volvo’s very own way of packaging the battery. The pouch-like design also differs itself away from the traditional cylindrical or prismatic cells found in most makes.

Being a PHEV, Lennart also recommends that all owners should take note about charging the batteries up more commonly. By doing so, cells inside the battery will be frequently active, and not drained out as it could result in further maintenance. To experience its full combined 407bhp and 640Nm, you need to have a charged-up battery, or at least above reserve power.

Charging the 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack takes approximately four hours by using a run off the mill 110-volt outlet — though the process can be easily reduced to below three hours with the use of a 220-volt outlet or higher amperage. A standard-issue Hager power outlet, which is a common sight at Volvo showrooms, will fill it up back to full in approximately 2.5 hours.

Integrated with the ERAD, or best known as the Electric Rear Axle Drive, the XC90 T8 uses that function to deliver power to the rear wheels. Without a traditional propshaft running in the middle of the car, it uses a motor generator that is placed within the transmission. In theory, this finalised component is known as the CISG, or Crankshaft Integrated Starter Generator.

The ERAD also controls the regeneration of energy for the car’s rear wheels. Cooling is done by water, and it is designed to process a peak torque and power output of 80bhp or 240Nm. It will also function up to 120km/h, and not more than that. The ZF-made CISG however, is designed to handle a max speed of 8000rpm with a tolerance of up to 45bhp and 180Nm. It also functions as the HV starter motor, charging HV battery and power boost.

In harmony, both systems will enable the XC90 to regenerate power from braking throughout the four wheels, as opposed to normal PHEVs where it only takes place in the front axles. The two systems are also built in with a cutoff function when the vehicle reaches a certain speed or driving characteristics to avoid overheating.

Technology such as these will also taper down to the smaller CMA platform as well, and it will underpin future small and mid-sized Volvos to come. Tentatively, Lennart has even mentioned that the upcoming XC40 crossover, S40 and V40 will feature similar PHEV setup you can find in today’s XC90, S90 and V90 T8.

In essence, Volvo has fine-tuned the XC90’s T8 powertrain to be the most efficient and economical yet by far. Aside from its stonking 5.6-second sprint from 0-100km/h, the XC90 is able to return an impressive 2.1L/100km as claimed officially— a number that no other SUV’s will be able to deliver within this segment.

To achieve this, drivers can select the 43km-range, battery-power only Pure mode in ideal situations, or Hybrid mode – which alternates power between both the engine and electric motor.

This exemplary technique that Volvo has mastered will be a rewarding chapter for both end users and themselves. Now locally assembled, the XC90 T8 is also priced very competitively for those seeking a full-size PHEV SUV with all bells and whistles thrown in that doesn’t incur any additional cost.

So why bother buying an expensive and not to one’s taste serving of sturgeon caviar, while you can have well-cooked roe that is served alongside with some slices of high-quality Scandinavian salmon? This is where the XC90 fits in perfectly, and good guy Volvo is making these technologies even more accessible for the most of us in due course.

CMA: A Revolution in the Making

Like SPA, the all-new CMA platform is designed to underpin future Volvo models to come within the C-segment area. By using the SPA platform as the cornerstone, the CMA platform also adopts plenty of similar engineering benefits, which includes greater adaptions for both petrol and plug-in Hybrid powertrains fitted in a similar fashion. In return, production costs will be greatly reduced – and spurring development for a wider range of bodystyles as a bonus.

The future is in limbo. The oil wells are running dry, and fossil fuel is bound to go down the history books. Things are going awry doesn’t it?

This is why Volvo believes in sustenance to ensure that both mother nature and us are at one, and this is why they’re here to deliver you an exciting at the wheel development that differs itself from the common bunch.


Hybrid Architectures: Past, Present and the Future

Generation 1 EUCD Hybrid System (2013)
BISG with ERAD (15+50kW)
5-cylinder Diesel Engine (211bhp)
HV Battery between rear wheels
3.5kW OBC

Generation 2 SPA Modular Hybrid System (2015)
CISG with ERAD (35+60kW)
VEA Twin Charge Engine (317bhp)
HV Battery in tunnel
CIDD, Inverter + DC/DC
3.5kW OBC

Generation 3 CMA Modular Hybrid System (2018)
Electric Motor 55kW integrated with seven-speed dual clutch
GEP3 (132kW)
HV Battery in tunnel
CIDD, Inverter + DC/DC
3.5kW OBC

OBC: On-Board-Charger

The OBC features a single-phase AC charger that is isolated in design. Slotted beneath the luggage bay, this device converts AC voltage from the grid to DC voltage. With this, it charges up the HV battery, and charging time varies from 3.5 hours to 7 hours depending on current. All methods of mitigating are done via water cooling, which is also shared with the DC/DC, ERAD and Inverter.